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Answers from vets about your cat:

I Have a Constipated Cat, What Should I Do?

Posted September 17, 2014 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Cat sitting by a window

Every day you probably see or hear at least one advertisement promoting human products to ‘protect digestive health’ or to ‘resolve bloating and to keep you regular.’ Colon regularity seems to be a real celebrity cause these days, but did you know that your cat is also prone to bouts of irregularity? Did you know that constipation in cats can, over time, become a serious, life-threatening problem?

Depending on your cat’s bathroom habits, you may or may not even be aware of how ‘regular’ he is. If your cat is free-roaming outside, you may not be in a position to monitor his bowel movements.

[Editor’s Note: This is another reason why we recommend keeping your cat indoors at all times.]

If you are cleaning a litter pan every day, odds are you will notice whether or not your cat is eliminating daily and whether his stools are large or small, hard or soft. Armed with this information, it’s your job to notice if your cat is developing constipation.

Symptoms of constipation in cats include:

  • Difficulty passing stools and/or straining to defecate: Note that straining can be pretty general and can easily be confused with difficulty urinating (or vice versa). While the inability to pass stool is uncomfortable and over time can become a very serious problem, the inability to urinate is always an urgent, emergency situation; you should seek veterinary assistance immediately if your cat is straining and uncomfortable.
  • Hard, small stools: Even if you cat is having bowel movements on a routine basis, if those stools are small, hard or dry that is still an indication that there is a problem
  • No stools at all
  • Small amounts of liquid stool: This may seem counterintuitive, but if your cat is only passing small amounts of liquid it may be because he is so constipated that the immoveable, hard, mass of stool is blocking the passage of anything but little bits of liquid.
  • Decreased appetite/activity/depression
  • Vomiting: Vomiting can occur simply because of feeling too ‘full’ but also typically occurs as a result of forceful (especially non-productive) straining to expel feces

Causes of constipation in cats and treatments

  • Dehydration is an extremely common cause of constipation, especially in cats. This can occur because many cats don’t drink much to begin with, but it can also occur secondary to other illnesses; especially in situations where your cat simply cannot drink enough (fevers or

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.